Public hearings set on SDG&E bid to pass on 2007 firestorm costs to customers

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SAN DIEGO — The California Public Utilities Commission Monday announced that it will take public comment next month on a bid by San Diego Gas & Electric to pass on costs of the 2007 wildfires to customers.

SDG&E has requested authority to recover $379 million from the Witch, Guejito and Rice wildfires that were sparked by electrical lines blown down by strong Santa Ana winds. The utility said the levy would amount to $1.67 a month for the typical residential customer.

The CPUC will hold two public participation hearings on Jan. 9 in Escondido to allow the public to comment on whether the utility’s operation and management of its facilities prior to the wildfires were reasonable.

In a prior decision, the CPUC held that for costs to be found reasonable, the utility must prove that they were “prudently incurred by competent¬†¬†management exercising the best practices of the era, and using well- trained, well-informed and conscientious employees and contractors who are performing their jobs properly.”

Unjust or unreasonable costs must not be recovered in rates from customers, according to the agency.

The meetings will begin at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the California Center for the Arts.

Those unable to attend can submit written comments to: CPUC Public Advisor, 505 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102, or via email to public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov. The communications should refer to proceeding number A.15-09-010.

Each comment will be given to the CPUC’s commissioners and the administrative law judge assigned to the case.

Between them, the October 2007 blazes killed two people, burned nearly 200,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,100 homes.

In filings with the agency, SDG&E said it has faced $2.4 billion in costs from the fires, including 2,500 lawsuits seeking damages. The company said it has recovered $1 billion from insurance carriers and another $824 million from Cox Communications and three contractors.